Monday, 24 June 2013

Poddies have arrived!

We had some exciting new arrivals on Thursday afternoon... Not one, but two poddy calves!

With D-day fast approaching for one of our heifers, we decided to get the ball rolling in terms of getting another cow. We had considered a ‘poddy’ when we originally moved in, but Matt didn’t believe I’d be able to see it through, especially raising one by hand… to be honest I'm not sure either of us are confident of this yet. However having gained experience raising our own chooks and pigs; particularly Streaky, our original Berkshire sow, whilst we both know it will be difficult, at least we’ve had some experience.

We decided a young calf would be ideal, as this would stagger the ages of our cows, something we need to consider when raising your own meat. So we decided to seek out a ‘poddy’, as it would also save a life (least for a few years). Plus it would give us the oppurtunity to quiten and settle the calf, before introducing her to the big girls. 

"Poddy calves" in Australia are abandoned or orphaned calves that have to be bottle fed. The term probably originated from the fat little bellies the calves develop. In our case I contacted the local cattle abattoir, as I had heard you could buy a ‘poddy’ if one became available. Occasionally the cattle calf in transit or upon arrival and the staff are happier to sell/ re-home them where possible; given you have the appropriate property and provisions- here in QLD you require a PIC number- Property Identification, so that the animals can be properly transferred and registered.  
Ruby, our little fighter
Bart, our greedy boy
So we placed our name on the waiting list. We were surprised when we received a call a week later to say they had not one but two! I was initially reluctant, as our property isn’t very big. But how could refuse that face! The female was ‘small’ and probably ‘premmy’ (premature) they told me. And her mother had hadsome udder deformity, though she had been feeding from the other calves mum… so we had to give this little fighter a chance. So if we grow both to weaners, we’ll reassess our options then.

Bit of retail therapy with a difference
On this news, my first priority was to do a little shopping; milk replacement, baby bottles, hay… we set up a small pen area in our house garden, with shade, fresh water and hay. And welcomed our new arrivals- Bart & Ruby. Bart is a Brahman, Charbray cross (though Charbray’s are a cross between Brahman & Charolais- French bull; but the percentage ratio to call it a Charbray is very technical). Ruby is a Red Brahman (possibly crossed, we’re not sure).   
First feed was interesting. We did attempt to feed them Thursday evening, but neither was interested and they were rather settled. So we figured they must have had a feed from Mum before they arrived. The next morning however, both were calling and quite keen. Barts instincts kicked in and he forced his way between my legs and began searching for the udder. So I went with it and placed the bottle near my knees. This proved quite affective. Ruby on the other hand, doesn’t require you to straddle her, but likes to be close to you; along side.
We are feeding them twice a day, so trying to get them into a routine. We will need bottle feeding them for a few months yet, so plenty of early starts!
The formula is quite precise. Friends have warned us that getting the concerntration wrong; both under and over or the temprature can affect them. And obviously if they have the runs, it could cause dehydration, which could be fatal to them... it's quite a science!
They seem quite content in their secure pen, like most babies they don't do a great deal other than sleep, eat and poop. We do let them have a (supervised) trot around the garden around feed times. And as its winter and the night temperatures have dropped (in Queensland terms- single figures is very cold!). We have set up the larger transport cage with hay inside for them to sleep overnight.

  Ruby doesn’t seem to be a ‘morning person’ and prefers to feed in the afternoons. Bart however will take whatever you give him, whenever its offered! He does begin to play up and buck and trot about when he’s had his quota, but will continue to pester for more, though he’s not really interested. Guess he’s afraid he’s missing out.

So look out for future updates on our little ones.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Food from scraps & sprouting update

Ok so update on my 'free food' and 'spout' experiments.

After almost a week our 'sprouts' have had mixed results. I can safely say that the cottonwool is a more appropriate base than blotting paper; it appears to hold moisture better. And even though it is currently winter, so had hoped the cooler temperatures and humidity would have meant that mould would not have been an issue… clearly it was.

I have also set some seeds for veggies and rosella shrubs to see how successfully they germinate using this method.

Our celery is sprouting well, so I have set another half we recently used. Also whilst the lettuce looks increasing ill and translucent, it has actually began sprouting fresh leaves!

And my basil now has great roots, might have to try planting some soon.

Lice!.. chicken lice

As you may have noticed I blog the problems we face, as well as the successes. But this one I am a little ashamed to blog. Not because we have done anything wrong, but just the stigma or association that goes with it- human or animal... LICE!

That's right, after having chickens for four year or more we have our first real problem with chicken lice, or maybe their mites. To be honest we are not sure which is which, as am having conflicting information- Google can be a dangerous thing!

Either way we want them gone as they can cause reduced egg production, feather loss; due to over pruning as a result of the irritation, and in young birds even death.

I read a few posts suggesting poultry lice and mites with poor health, and to a certain point I would have to agree; If they are left untreated then this is poor health and care. However I think as with humans they are easily spread through contact with those who are infested. So in the case of fowl; poultry shows, introduced birds and wild birds…much like the human form!

Our infestation, may have something to do with the returning the whistlers (wild whistling geese); these guys make themselves at home in our area every winter. As its too late for prevention (in this case); though some of the technique I have read I will be doing once we have eradicated them- sprinkling ag-lime over their dust bathing areas, and spraying their nesting boxes with diluted Teatree or eucalyptus oils- funny not alot of thing like these oils! We will also need to looking at improving our feed locations. We did place nets over our birds last year, but a few would still make it in... and one or two couldn't or wouldn't make it out.

But as for now, we need to treat them, I read about people rubbing Vaseline or Vicks on their chicken's legs or even spraying them with WD40, though I think these are more for scaly mites… not that I am too sure about spraying our fowl with WD40 anyway.

So on the weekend we placed the affected birds in quarantine, completely cleaning out their housing and pen, changing all bedding materials and dusting the replacements with ag-lime. But not after we thoroughly soaked every mm with an animal/poultry lice and tick treatment. We keep 2 treatments here permanently for treating our animals (cattle, pigs, dogs). Chemicals are not something I am big on inflicting on any anything where possible, and yes there are alternatives. But when it comes to their welfare (which yes some may see as a contradiction) you do not mess about with ticks or mites in the tropics.

Once this was done I turned my attention to the birds themselves, then the rest of the flock. Even though it only appears to be amongst our growing roosters (at this stage). We want it to stay that way- so we treated everything. Just in case. And we will do the same again in a week or two, just in case of any eggs (and not the chicken variety).


Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Growing your own costly? How about free

I quite often get questions about whether growing your own fruit and veggies (or herbs for that matter) is truly cost effective. For many there is this presumption that growing your own must be expensive, labour intensive and requires a large amount of space.
To be fair I am not the most 'green fingered' individual and with my limited gardening knowledge some things have been more successful than other. But I do believe you can make gardening as big or costly as you like. We started off small (on a suburban block) and have continued to develop both our garden and our knowledge- what works for us... and we could always use a little for space!  There are plenty of great space saving solutions out here for those who want to grow, and many using recycled materials.
As for the cost of plants; a few seedlings (particularly of the right plant) can produce its value in veggies 10-12 times over (maybe more). Or a cheaper option (though you need more patients) are seeds... and once your plants are mature, save the seeds and then you can continue for years to come for free!

On the subject of free, I recently came across a Facebook post listing a number of foods you can grow from food scraps; the bits you don't eat, that we cut off and discard. Or generally in our house is fed to the animals (pigs, poultry, dogs) or occasionally may make it as far as the composter, given it's not over flowing with garden waste, old animal bedding and manure.

So I decided to try a few of these. After all it's 'free food'. Why wouldn't I?
So for each item I try, I intend to document the results... either way.
I have already documented how to regenerate roots from cut basil stalks, instead of harvesting directly off the plant. When I uploaded this blog, I did receive a comment that basil is easy to grow from seed. And I would have to agree, and mine self seeds wonderfully. But I was curious as to whether it could be done. And if I can regenerate more when ever I want to use some, I don't see why you wouldn't. Besides if it can be done from mine,  it should be possible from fresh bunches purchased from a store/ supermarket. I currently have another bunch sprouting roots; this bunch is only 2 weeks old and the roots are far more developed than my last attempt- the difference being I have had them in a seaweed solution, not just fresh water.

Due to the improved results I also used a diluted seaweed solution for this celery stalk, well half a celery stalk. This was a supermarket purchased a half bunch; once I cut it off to use the stalks to use I placed it by the kitchen window. This took place over the weekend; 4 days later, it's already begun to grow!
So I will continue to update their progress, as I continue to experiment with how to generate 'free food', after all who doesn't like a free meal!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Sprouting experiment

By sprouts I am not talking about the small cabbage like vegetables. But more the salad variety, such as alfalfa or cress. Now this may not be exciting to many, but following the open day at CRT (our local Rural Supply Store) a few weeks back, I have been keen to experiment with sprouts.

Sprouting is apparently not new, as Matt informs me that was how he learned to germinate seeds at primary school. Personally we didn't, but I do vaguely remember my sister growing cress on a potato when we were kids. It sat on our window sill, with a face on it, til it grew 'hair'.
Apparently cress is not the only thing you can 'sprout', it's a legitimate germination technique- something I may be doing more of in the future (if this is successful).  
Anyway, at the open day this guy was feeding a clump of 'grass' to some of the animals. This grass was in fact barley grass; excitedly sharing how he turns 1kg of seed into 5-6 kg of feed, that he uses as animal fodder in just 7 to 10 days!
For any health enthusiast out there barley grass is considered a 'super food' due to its high protein levels and is often used in smoothies or salads... the same reason it makes ideal animal fodder!
This guy explained how he had purchased a second hand kit, but essentially it was a temperature, humidity and moisture controlled unit containing shelving and trays.

Now looking into 'sprouting' this appears to be possible on any scale. There are examples on the net in colder climates where they grow it in poly tunnels heated by methane from cows, which in turn eat the grass. But small scale, kitchen top kits also appear being widely available from most garden stores- for sprouting your own salads. Although I am experimenting on a smaller scale (least for now), depending on the potential turnover, I feel a counter top kit just isn't going to suffice for feeding the animals, though I may look into one for us at a later stage.

The general rules for sprouting appear to be that the seeds require soaking and draining and then they need to be kept moist. And whilst they do not require direct light, they can be affected by temperature. Ideally they need to be 16-24 C- so given the climate here, winter is ideal conditions for 'sprouting', so I do not see why we would require a 'kit' or 'room'. After all winter would be the most beneficial time to 'sprout', as  that is when the animals have less to graze on. I believe the issue in temperatures about that is the potential that the seeds may become mouldy, which with the humidity here this may be a problem for the summer months. But that is a few months away yet.

So I managed to source some barley seeds, but I also bought some wheat, oats, chia, amaranth, German chamomile & cress. I still had a small amount of alfalfa seeds that I had bought last year, so have used them too.
I have soaked eat over night, then rinsed and placed on damp cotton wool- currently cluttering up my kitchen bench (not their permanent location). I have also use a tray and damp kitchen paper for a larger version.

The idea in 'experimenting' (loose term) with different seeds is not only to see what sprouts quicker or yields better, but to see how successful this technique is in general. I really feel that I missed out as a child, having not done this!

The process itself has been simple, but it has already produced unexpected results.
Soaking the chia seeds, produced a gel like coating.
And after 2 days, we already have some development! I know the guy we spoke to explained how he had turn around in 7-10 days, but I have been pleased to see the seeds beginning to sprout. So I will update you at the end of the week.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Egg-citing Sunday

Well from a fortnight ago when I evicted our unwelcome shed squatter (carpet python) we have had a regular supply of eggs. Only 1 or 2 a day; but it is winter here so we're grateful to be getting an. Especially after our prior 'drought'.
But yesterday we had 6 eggs, 1 of which was our 1st duck egg since January. Today we had another 6 eggs, 4 from the chickens & 2 ducks (we now only have 2 duck hens - so 2 from 2)!
Secret nest
If that wasn't enough, whilst strimming the house yard Matt discovered a nest, hidden in under the air con unit.
Our OEGx 'Lavender' had been hanging around the back of the house of a morning, and being quite vocal... anyone who has chickens will know what I mean about the hens laying song.

But every time we went to investigate she'd be stood just off the patio, singing away. I had thought she may have been nesting in the landscape garden, but we hadn't found anything there... now we know why.
So 8 eggs, fortunately the weathers been cool and the eggs were cold. 'Lavenders' been pretty active; so she hasn't been sitting.
So here's how to test if your eggs are good. To be sure about fertility and development 'candle' them. I wrote a blog on this before. But if not to check if their fresh.
Fill a bowl with water and drop your eggs in. Fresh eggs sink, rotten eggs float. Or at least that's the theory- Think I''ll still keep them seperate to the rest, so that I can identify them when I want/need to use them... just in case
So weekend total - 20 eggs!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Propogating Basil from cuttings

For those who did not read the original post (titles the same- I think), about a month ago I blogged about a tip I had read- and planned to try out.

Cut Stem

The tip was, that you can propogate basil from cuttings. So if this were true, why wouldn't I? Especially if I was harvesting the leaves anyway?

 So I cut the stems of about half a dosen large basil stems from the invading plant in the veg patch; intension being (if this works) to gradually transfer it to the herb garden.

Harvested Stem

So cut them using a scissors, then once inside picked off the larger, lower leaves for cooking. Exposing at least 2 inches of the stem.


Placed in jar of water
The remaining stalks; including flowers and buds (and a few smaller leaves) I placed in a jar, with water. Originally I read that this was to be kept on a sunny window sill. I actually do not have many windows with sills to place them on- least not in the sun. Am guessing the original tipster did not live in tropical queensland, where verything is designed for shade and cool.
So I place them on my bathroom window sill. Eventually I decided this was not 'sunny' enough (though it was probably the best sill I had). So I placed the jar in the veg garden.

One month on, and that is all the attention it has had, other than topping up the water. And we have roots! Not sure how long they need to be to plant out, so will add some gradually- see what works best.

I have also started another bunch in another jar, as I felt this was a great way to grow from what we eat. Though I think I would pick off more of the larger leaves, preferring to select stems with a mix of largers leaves with buds and/or small leaves. I also used the same principle with a few lettuce stalks; that was originally purchased from the supermarket. I also believe you can do this with other vegetables too- such as celery... So will keep you posted with my food from scraps.
So one month on, I thought I best provide an update...

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Homemade Ginger beer

Use plastic bottles, this recipe makes 2l

grated ginger

1/4tsp yeast
225g caster sugar
1 squeezed lemon
1&1/2 - 2tbsp fresh grated ginger
1tbsp honey (optional)


measuring sugar

Measure dry ingredients into bottle(s).
Add ginger and lemon juice pulp & seeds are OK
Then top up with water to about 1/2 way.

Put top on and shake, till all dry ingredient are mixed in.

Remove top and fill rest of way with water, leaving 1 - 1&1/2 inch gap at top (allowing room to expand)
Place in warm spot for 48hrs. At which time place in fridge to stop fermentation process.
Strain to serve.

squeezed half a lemon
with the other half 

Tip for squeezing lemons (all citrus fruit) if, like me you don't own a juicer; cut fruit in half and press each half by hand. To get the remaining juice out, turn one half to side and twist it inside the other half. Then repeat with other side